Jerry Sandusky Scandal

Judge to weigh merit of charges in Sandusky case

Jerry Sandusky, left, is escorted out of the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa., after a hearing, Friday, February 10, 2012, by Sheriff Denny Nau, right.  Centre Daily Times/Nabil K. Mark
Jerry Sandusky, left, is escorted out of the Centre County Courthouse, in Bellefonte, Pa., after a hearing, Friday, February 10, 2012, by Sheriff Denny Nau, right. Centre Daily Times/Nabil K. Mark Centre Daily Times

BELLEFONTE — The judge presiding over the Jerry Sandusky case will hear oral arguments, including the defense’s motion to dismiss all the charges, as part of a hearing scheduled for Thursday morning.

Sandusky is expected to attend, his attorney said Tuesday.

Bellefonte officials will not close any streets around the Centre County Courthouse and won’t modify parking.

The hearing before Senior Judge John Cleland begins at 9 a.m. Public seats are on a first-come, first-served basis.

The motion to dismiss was among the defense’s requests filed in an omnibus pretrial motion two weeks ago.

Sandusky’s attorney, Joe Amendola, argued in the motion that the charges against his client are too vague, and that has hindered his defense preparation for trial.

Prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office have said they can’t provide any further information about when the alleged abuse occurred. They contend that state law allows them to have “broad latitude” to establish the dates of the allegations.

The defense also wants the charges that are tied to specific dates to be dismissed.

One of those is the most well-known incident, which former Penn State assistant coach Mike McQueary testified he saw in March 2002.

The defense says McQueary’s testimony can’t prove the charges associated with that incident. McQueary testified he saw Sandusky and a boy in a Penn State shower involved in an “extremely sexual” situation but didn’t see intercourse.

The defense also has maintained that nothing sexual occurred between Sandusky and an 11-year-old boy in a Penn State shower in 1998, and that testimony about an incident involving Sandusky that a janitor saw in 2000 is hearsay.

Among the prosecution’s responses, they wrote that the defense should have tested the state’s evidence at a preliminary hearing in December, but Sandusky waived his right to have one.

Another important issue, if the trial goes forward, is the defense’s motion to sequester the jury. For the trial’s duration, the jurors would be put up in hotels, fed and transported to and from the courthouse at the county’s expense.

Amendola asked for that so the jurors would avoid hearing about the coverage during the trial.

Whether the jurors could have computer or phone access would be up to the judge, said Court Administrator Maxine Ishler.

Amendola and the prosecution also want the process to question the jurors — called voir dire — to be individual. Typically in Centre County, groups of 25 to 30 people are called up and asked questions to determine if they can be impartial jurors. Questioning people one by one would likely lengthen jury selection.

The defense and prosecution also disagree about the legality of some evidence collected.

The defense wants to suppress statements Sandusky made to police in 1998, items seized from his home this past summer, and conversations that were recorded by police.

The prosecution maintains the searches and recordings were done according to the law and that the statements shouldn’t be suppressed because Sandusky wasn’t in police custody at the time.

Court administration staff have been working to accommodate regional and national media that are expected to arrive in Bellefonte to cover the hearing. About 20 news trucks are expected, and about 90 reporters had registered to cover the hearing.

It’s not known whether the judge will rule on the matters at the hearing or review the arguments and file an order later. Previously, he’s ruled as quickly as the day after a hearing.

County offices will be closed on Friday for Good Friday, so if an order isn’t filed by the close of business Thursday, the earliest it could be filed is Monday.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin June 5 with trial to follow immediately after.

Mike Dawson can be reached at 231-4616.